November 24th, 2007

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Good Morning!!

I have been reading a lovely book of poems by Cathy Song.   It is called Cloud Moving Hands. 

In many of the poems, she is saying goodbye to her mother.   I find this poem especially beautiful and comforting.




Cloud moving hands,

hand moving clouds –

in the water, boundaries shift,

the skin sheds its tight perspective,

stretched into a vast shimmering.

I enter the sea to the level

where my vision brims at the surface.

The position of swimmers and small

boats skim across the field,

supported by an imperceptible current.

On a platform a woman performs

a series of movements.

She seems to float yet remain

deeply grounded.

She appears to be walking on water.


With one kick,

I bob between earth and sky,

suspended in a blue globe,

gently rocking.

Everything is as it should be.

To leave the body

when it is time

must be like this,

nothing more than giving one’s self

over to what is always

holding us, the soft lapping.


My mother lies on her back,

compressed into a pocket of bones.

At the appointed hour,

nurses flip her to one side

and then the other, to release

the pressure such tiny bones

leave on the skin, sores

that leak like grapes.

When they roll her over, her eyelids

flash open like a doll’s.


I drift, and in drifting, think of her.

I surround her with a circle of light.

Out of this intention,

the girl who has smiled at me

from the picture on my desk

emerges, vibrant and lithe, just shy

of sixteen, a year before she is to meet my father.

She slips out of bed, hair curled, already

dressed, as if she has been waiting

for the signal.


She sheds the old body

like a nightgown she is sick of wearing.

She walks out the door,

down the sunlit hall, like a teenager

tiptoeing past her parents’ room.

Once safely by the nurses’ station,

she begins to run.


I am afraid in her haste

she will not remember me,

but she does.

She does remember.

She turns and waves.

and then, into the skylight

she leaves in earnest,

she exits,

swimming toward the big surface.


Clouds move hands,

hands move clouds –

gently lifted, gently supported.

Everything is as it should be.

I stroke through air,

I fly through water,

I send my mother home.  



-          Cathy Song




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Presence -

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."

                        -- Henry David Thoreau


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One day - all life - live as a poem!

Each today, well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness

                                        and each tomorrow a vision of hope.

                      Look, therefore, to this one day, for it and it alone is life.


                                                                -- Sanskrit poem



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Fireplace fires -

I know there are people attached to their right to own a gun, and maybe I am as fond of my right to have a fire.  Because our house is older, we still have an old-fashioned fireplace.  We don't have a fire often.  I am careful with my choice and choose a rainy night.   We didn't even have our traditional Thanksgiving fire because it didn't feel cold enough.  The afternoon sun pours into our living room and leaves quite a round of heat.

I feel concern that my right to have a fire in my fireplace may be banned.  I consider myself intelligent enough to choose when it is appropriate to have a fire.  I won't be out driving that night or consuming.  I'll be looking at the waves in the fire,

Because there are so many of us on the planet, we need a lot of "rules."   Rules are replacing common sense.  I find that sad.   There are no rules against Hummers, and certainly that is more of a pollutant than my five or six fires a year, and I am aware that I am stuck in my own desire and love of the serenity and rejuvenation found in watching a fire.  

I also get enjoyment from a candle flame, though, those will probably be banned too.

It is a funny world in which we live, and again, I offer a vote for common sense.  How about if each time I don't upgrade my cell phone or buy the latest iPod, I get to have one nightly fire?  Certainly that would be an equal trade as to pollutants and my carbon footprint.   I could use no lights the night of my fire, and wear clothes another day.   How about a trade?

I really can't imagine a life in which my grandchildren will never see a burning fire, other than wildfires on TV, with even wilder exclamations by lacquered anchorpeople, on fear.

That is sad to me.  

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Fulfill -

We continue to eat leftovers and live very full.

Today, we climbed up on the roof to rake up the pine needles of which there were many.   The view from there is amazing and I kept circling around to enjoy the green, and the feeling of looking down upon a world that I enjoy but which seems smaller when seen from above.

I also spent a great deal of time pruning a small tree and bamboo.   Then, we made turkey soup from our long-simmered turkey stock.

I was looking at the December National Geographic today and was surprised by some of the statistics on religion.  It seems that "Christianity is on the rise in Africa, China, and Russia, while Islam grows in Europe."

33% of the people in the world are Christians, 21% Muslims, 14% Nonbelievers, 13% Hindus, 12% Other, and 6% Buddhists.   The United States is 82% Christian, 2% Muslim, 12% Nonbelievers, 1% Hindu, 1% Other, 1% Buddhist, and 2$ Jewish.   50% of Chinese are currently non-believers.   There is also an article on Bethlehem and how it is now.  It is hard to believe there can be so much dissension when religion speaks of peace.

Barry Lopez has an essay on Cold Scapes.  There are magnificent pictures.  Here is an excerpt from his essay.

    Over several decades of travel, I have often met people who were profoundly intimate with the places in which they lived.  Usually they were hunters, hunter-gatherers, subsistence farmers, or pastoralists, people who had to know precisely where they were, physically, all the particulars of it, if they were going to keep their preferred way of life intact.  In conversation, I found the fine points they were attuned to fascinating, but more so the pattern of their knowledge, their skill at arranging myriad details in a pattern that could be recognized, remembered, and put to use.  It is exhilarating to encounter knowledge this intimate.  Most of us in the modern world have nothing to compare with it, except a working knowledge of the infrastructure of our own highly technical civilization.  To see and appreciate, to be immersed for a lifetime in patterns that are not of your own making, that is a different order of things. 

    My guess would be that somebody someday will trace the roots of modern human loneliness to a loss of intimacy with place, to our many breaks with the physical Earth.  We are not out there much anymore.  Even when we are, we are often too quick to take things in.  A member of the group who insists on lingering is "holding everyone else up." I think about this kind of detachment from the physical world frequently, because human beings, generally, seem to long for a specific place, a certain geography that gives them a sense of well-being.

    When I was traveling regularly in the Arctic, I routinely asked Yupik, Inupiat, and Inuit how they characterized people from the civilization of which I was a part.  "Lonely" was a response I heard with discomfiting frequency.  The cure for loneliness, I have come to understand,  is not more socializing.  It's achieving and maintaining close friendships.  The trust that characterizes that kind of friendship allows one to be vulnerable, to discuss problems that resist a solution, for example, without having to risk being judged or dismissed.  I bring this up because the desire I experience most keenly, when I travel in landscapes like the ones made so evocative here, is for intimacy.  I have learned that I will not experience the exhilaration intimacy brings unless I become vulnerable to that place, unless I come to a landscape without judgments, unless I trust that the place is indifferent to me.  The practice I strive for when I travel is to meet the land as if it were a person.  To encounter it as if it were as deep in its meaning as a human personality.  I wait for it to speak.  And wait.  And wait.

    - Barry Lopez

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Today -

On a day when the wind is perfect
the sail just needs to open
and the love starts.
Today is such a day.